A boxing school founded by Lambeth’s Fire Brigade commander to help young people develop life skills at has proved to be a knockout.
Commander Rick Ogden set up the Lambeth-based project about a year ago with Steve Miguel, the owner of Miguel’s Boxing Gym.
Mr Ogden, a Lambeth native, wanted to give young people an outlet for their energy, while allowing them to learn teamwork, motivation and discipline. That’s where boxing comes in.
The project also offers a ‘life course,’ which allows participants to do a week of fire brigade training.
“I’m positive that we’ve made a huge difference and we’ll continue to make that difference,” he said.
“If that’s just by the running of this class, then we’ll continue to do it, but the hopes and aspirations of this project are higher.
Many of those who join have never been in trouble, but Lambeth can sometimes be a difficult place for young people to live in.
Mr Ogden said the borough experiences extremely high rates of gun and knife crime for 16 – 24-year-olds, but this project aims to point young people back to the brighter side of life in Lambeth.
“I grew up around Lambeth, so it’s my spiritual birthplace. I’ve always had a thing about the area, knowing it and the experience of growing up in it,” he said.
“It’s a fantastic area with fantastic people, doing some really fantastic things and that gets lost in translation a lot of time.
A company has provided ten personal training qualifications and Mr Ogden hopes everyone that has been involved since the project started will get full time employment qualifications and do well.
“People can’t stay here forever, but I think the thing about boxing and especially in this gym, is that it’s a community and no one’s ever going to get turned away from that,” he said.
Mr Ogden said club captain, Shamari McKay, has changed a great deal since he first joined the programme.
After joining the course Mr McKay worked hard to drop from 14 to 10 stone and shifted from being ‘a bit uncontrollable’ to a dedicated club captain and mentor.
“At that time I thought, you know what, I’m going to put all my heart in and see what can become of it,” he said.
Mr McKay said boxing has taught him to be committed and disciplined, because if you aren’t dedicated, it will come out in the ring.
Boxer Comfort Emmanuel said she was unemployed when she first started attending Rick’s boxing programme, but she was able to attend for only £1.
For Ms Emmanuel the gym has changed things for her in a lot of ways.
“I’m usually someone whose shy and would shy away from any responsibility,” she said.
“But sometimes I’m up there and they might say, ‘oh Comfort, can you take the session?’
The gym has given her leadership skills and confidence that she has taken out into her life outside the ring.
The community’s reaction to the project has been overwhelmingly positive and the fire commander’s future aspirations for the project are simple—to see the project carry on another year.
Picture courtesy of Kristin Wall, with thanks